Apr 22, 2008

(Happy) Earth Day

Hooray. It's "Earth Day." One day, 24 hours, for us to be more aware and appreciative of the Earth's environment.

Woo hoo.

Never mind that the other 364 days of the year we're driving our SUV around town, alone and comfy in our captain's chair.

Or that we still leave the water running while we wash our hands with antibacterial soap.

Or that our salmon are now in as much trouble as our tuna.

I put honey in my tea today and was confronted by two unwelcome thoughts:
  • If this isn't "organic" honey, what crap pesticide residue am I drinking now?
  • When the bees go extinct, how will I put honey in my tea?

    Across the street, the neighbor's sprinklers spray well beyond the curbside planting strip, flooding the gutter and soaking the cars parked there. Then the gardener fires up his gas-powered leaf blower, creating great clouds of dust and grass clippings and pollen that immediately adhere to the wet cars. I am not making this up.

    It seems to me that we, as a society, have gone mad. We are pathological, behaving in ways that clearly harm others, if not directly ourselves. We are compulsive, unable or unwilling to modify our behaviors even when it's made clear that they are destructive. And we are delusional, somehow believing — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — that our actions either don't have consequences or will be mitigated by someone else.

    It's been about two years since Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth made us all wince just a little bit. And yet the troubles have been on people's lips for more than 15 years — I caught Batman Returns on TV over the weekend, and even in 1992 the Penguin referenced "global warming." I understand that sometimes Hollywood can seem out of touch, but major studio releases don't make their money referencing arcane phenomena advanced only by the intelligentsia.

    I was going to write today about a few things we all can do to help our planet, our neighbors, our children. Little things, things you might actually do, like converting your lawn to low-water plantings, not like converting your SUV to biodiesel. But honestly, we've known we're in trouble for, let's conservatively say, a decade. What have you changed in that time? Have you converted your lawn to low-water plantings? Have you stopped buying products whose manufacture kills the environment? Do you recycle and/or compost most, if not all, of your waste?

    If you have, great. I applaud you. Tell us all about it, if for no other reason than to help us sustain our delusion that someone somewhere is fixing the problem we're creating. But when my clients still demand lawns that no child will ever play on… when "my" contractors still install spray irrigation because drip is too difficult… when I myself still drive my SUV around town, solo… I think perhaps the problem is outpacing the fix.

    So, seriously: what are we going to do about it?

    the666bbq said...

    I compost all organic kitchen material and all garden waste - nothing leaves our home. I have to bring in quite some extra compost each year and nothing is like the stuff you make yourself. Our community collects green waste and the truck can pass my house without stopping for 7 years now, made te 20K trip to work on the bike, ... lots of stuff you can do ... if you want and don't find too many (lame) excuses.

    green regards from Peter, Belgium, Europe where we pay ten times more for our petrol thus have 100 times less V8 monster trucks you call cars ;-)

    John said...

    @the666bbq: Well done! Here there is unfortunately still a wide gap between the citizenry's willingness to recycle/compost, and the municipalities' abilities to receive it all. San Francisco leads the charge — it's a bit of an exercise buying lunch to go and figuring out whether your packaging and utensils are recyclable, compostable, both, or neither. And it mystifies me why San Jose can take almost anything curbside for recycling, while Palo Alto just to the north can't. Why can't the latter lease resources from the former? That's a question for the policymakers, I suppose. As for the price of gas, even in my SUV you'll never hear me complaining that we pay too much; I've long thought we've had it far too easy, for exactly the reason you state. Please keep riding that bike, and continue to inspire us!